DU students, alum present at PCA Convention

Sovi Herring | Staff Writer

Oct. 6, 2022

The Pennsylvania Communication Association’s (PCA) 82nd-Annual Convention was held on Oct. 1-2 at East Stroudsburg University. Due to Covid-19, there was no in-person conference in 2020 and in 2021, so they held a virtual conference. Despite the two years away, colleagues and new acquaintances made the most of the long-awaited event.

The conference theme was “Revitalization,” where relevant scholarship focused on moving back to regular interactions in daily lives. With a two-year gap for most events, the theme was particularly fitting, as any field and writer could relate. Papers and posters from students and faculty from across the state were presented throughout the weekend, including Duquesne alumni and current students.

This annual gathering of minds is a local highlight for those in the field of communication in the state. It is the first stepping stone for communication conferences in the region, where students and faculty alike are working together to fine-tune their discussions that help impact group learning for a short time.

The weekend consisted of a salon that honored Kenneth Burke, as well as various panels where other university leaders and Duquesne students and faculty led discussions of scholarship topics. Undergraduate and Ph.D. students of Duquesne’s Department of Communication and Rhetoric had the opportunity to present their work and get feedback from others in the field. It was filled with first-time attendees, as well as multi-year veterans to make the conference a success.

One of Duquesne’s faculty members was given the honor of being the salon keynote speaker addressing the rhetoric of Kenneth Burke, an influential philosopher for the discipline. Richard Thames, faculty member and founder of the Kenneth Burke Society, spoke about his relationship with the late Burke, and how his insights have changed and furthered communication scholarship.

Ronald Arnett, the former chair of Duquesne’s Department of Communication and Rhetoric, was awarded the 2022 Robert T. Oliver Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication to the discipline and service to PCA as its executive director for many years. Three of Duquesne’s Ph.D. students, Preston Carmack, Michaela Christensen and Natalia Wohar, won the 2022 Graduate Writing Competition for their works on the theme of “Revitalization.”

Wohar’s paper was titled “An Icon of Dialogic Courage: Response to the Absurd of the Unity of Contraries.” She was excited to present the paper.

“The paper I wrote for this conference was on a topic that is very important to me, so I had fun writing it,” Wohar said. “And I am lucky to have professors in the department who take the time to look over student writing and give feedback that helps us prepare our projects for conferences. I think our faculty are the best at the university.”

Accepted papers that influenced the rest of the panel conversations covered a wide range of topics to interest many sub focuses. Topics such as Confucius; the crisis of attention; navigating debate; doom scrolling and the metaverse are among the few things that were accepted for presentation.

Of the undergraduate papers that were presented in the Interpersonal and Corporate Communication category, two Duquesne students presented their research.

Catherine Foody wrote “Effective Use of Corrective Action and Other Communication Crisis Tactics by Stakeholders in the Larry Nassar Scandal.” Diya Krishna wrote “How Brand Image Transformation Saved Levi’s.” Both provided commentary and explanations on their research, which impressed other attendees.

Carmack enjoyed the undergrad presentations.

“My favorite panel topic was the undergraduate research panel,” Carmack said. “It was so neat to hear from students engaged in meaningful research, and two of them were from Duquesne.”

At the conclusion of Saturday’s convention, the discussions that took place among the attendees focused on the next conferences in the area for 2023.

Comradery and mentoring occurred between most who were able to stay for the final dinner, where many left in high spirits.

Though this was a conference that focused on communication, all disciplines are welcome to submit and attend.

Wohar and the Department of Communication and Rhetoric encourage all to share their hard work.

“This is a great conference for undergraduate students interested in grad school, or simply sharing their research with a broader audience,” Wohar said. “It is a smaller gathering of super supportive professors and students across the state of Pennsylvania.

“Even students who are not majoring or minoring in communication can work with the professor of their communication course to submit a paper. The food is good, the traveling is fun, and it is super rewarding to share your ideas with others who really care.”